Choroba w majestacie władzy. Stan zdrowia władców bizantyńskich z dynastii Paleologów w pierwszej połowie XV wieku.
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The present Ph.D. dissertation entitled ‘Illness and Statesmanship. Health of Byzantine rulers from the Palaiologan dynasty in the first half of the XVth Century’ focuses on Manuel II Palaiologos and his sons, their state of health and their rule. The two main theses put forward in the present dissertation are as follows. Firstly, that health and the well-being of the emperors was one of the most important concepts in the Byzantine imperial ideology and had special significance in the times when the Byzantine empire was endangered and the emperors had to face strenuous times and decisions. With their withering health their endurance and abilities to make quick and precise judgements could have been impeded. The second thesis is that the ailments of all of the analysed emperors were prone to did not influence and did not play a role in the deteriorating political position of Byzantium; nor did they negatively influence its diplomacy or made the penetration of its lands easier for the Turks. The dissertation is composed of three chapters. The first one explores the idea of a healthy Byzantine emperor and in general every other Byzantine ruler belonging to the dynasty of Palaiologoi in the first half of the XVth century from a point of view of the Byzantine concept of power. To a lesser extent it deals also with the meaning of health in official ceremonies. Besides the official accounts of ceremonies (in which the emperor took part) prescribed for a specific occasion, and which were left by the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (Xth Century) and by the author known as Pseudo-Kodinos, who lived under the rulership of Palaiologoi (XIVth Century), we used for our investigation the works written by the emperor Manuel II. Although this chosen collection of Manuel’s II Palaiologos works is not homogenous, they all reflect a notion of a healthy ruler derived from the Byzantine concept of power. The works analysed for the purposes of the present dissertation are as follows: ‘Praecepta educationis regiae’ and ‘Orathiones VII ethicopoliticae’ both treatises dedicated to the elder son and successor to the Byzantine throne John VIII; a transcription of a conversation held between Manuel II and his mother Helena Kantakouzene; Manuel’s II letters to various recipients and an eulogy composed by him over his late brother, despot of the Morea, Theodore I. In the second chapter the focus is shifted onto the medical issues and ailments from which three Palaiologoi, namely Andronic, the despot of Thessalonica and two emperors Manuel II and John VIII, suffered. The first one struggled with leprosy, the second suffered a stroke, and the third had gout. Gout’s treatment based on a highly toxic colchicine extracted from a herb called ‘Colchicum autumnale’ and prescribed to John VIII by Demetrios Pepagomenos, a specialist in gout, closely connected with the imperial family, caused him to be temporarily infertile. Having analyzed these medical conditions we move to chapter three which aims at showing how the health of these rulers influenced the decisions they made. A separate part of chapter three concerns the problem of a lack or a relatively small number of offsprings among the other sons of Manuel’s II (Constantine XI, Theodore II and Demetrios) and its impact on their statesmanship. The conducted research led to the following conclusions. Based on the selected pieces from Manuel’s II works we could determine that the idea of a healthy emperor constituted one of the most important elements of the Byzantine political ideology. Manuel II referred to the long standing tradition of political writings that underlined the necessity for a Byzantine ruler, and especially an emperor, to be in perfect physical and mental shape. It was to be achieved through an appropriate education in which members of a ruling dynasty were to be involved from their early years. Manuel II as an emperor himself understood clearly the rationale that stood behind the idea of a healthy ruler, in particular in the violent times of the first half of the XVth century. The diseases that frequently appeared among Manuel II and his sons were of significance on the more local scale (Thessalonica, Morea) influencing decisions and political alliances, but they did not have any impact on the Byzantine foreign policy and they did not deteriorate Constantinople’s calculations for the survival of Byzantium.